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Oceans
A Lake Worth lifeguard wearing a protective mask asks a surfer to exit the ocean as Palm Beach County officials announced that all county beaches are closed due to red tide affecting coastal areas on October 4, 2018 in Lake Worth, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Red Tide Plagues Both of Florida's Coasts for First Time in Decades

The same red tide choking Florida's Gulf coast has spread to waters off Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, forcing the closure of many popular beaches on Thursday and leaving hundreds of dead fish in its wake, according to local reports.

This is the first time in decades the toxic algae has affected both of Florida's coasts at the same time, the Associated Press reported.

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Vladimirovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Animals
Mom and baby West Indian manatees in Three Sisters Springs, Florida. James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

Florida Manatee: 10% of Population Could Be Wiped Out This Year

2018 has not been a good year for Florida's iconic manatees. A total of 540 sea cows have died in the last eight months, surpassing last year's total of 538 deaths, according to figures posted Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The figure will likely climb higher before the year's end amid the state's ongoing toxic algae crisis. The red tide in the state's southwest is the known or suspected cause of death for 97 manatees as of Aug. 12, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission recently reported.

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Oceans

Florida Gov. Scott Issues Emergency Order for Toxic Red Tide

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency due to the ongoing impacts of red tide in seven southwestern counties.

The algae outbreak started nine months ago and has become the state's longest on record since 2006. The red tide has killed scores of marine life, including countless crabs, eels and fish, as well as dozens of manatees, hundreds of endangered sea turtles, potentially a whale shark and 11 bottlenose dolphins.

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Joe Raedle / Getty Images

What Is Causing Florida’s Algae Crisis? 5 Questions Answered

By Karl Havens

Editor's note: Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state's history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have caused blooms of blue-green algae in downstream estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what's driving this two-pronged disaster.

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Animals
Nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle. They are the rarest species of sea turtle and is critically endangered. NPS

Nearly 300 Sea Turtles Dead as Red Tide Plagues Southwest Florida

Hundreds of sea turtles have washed up dead along the southwest Florida coast as an ongoing red tide event persists in the waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has logged 287 sea turtle deaths since the virulent algal bloom started in October, the Associated Press reported.

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Animals
Between 300 and 400 dead sea turtles were found floating about seven nautical miles off Jiquilisco Bay. MARN El Salvador / Twitter

Hundreds of Sea Turtles Found Dead Off El Salvador and No One Knows Why

Between 300 to 400 dead sea turtles were found floating seven nautical miles off the Jiquilisco Bay Biosphere Reserve in El Salvador, the country's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) tweeted yesterday.

The majority of the creatures were already decomposing when they were found, the ministry said. The species was not revealed.

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Paul Melovidov

'We've Never Seen Anything Like This': Hundreds of Dead Puffins Wash Ashore in the North Pacific

Hundreds of dead tufted puffins began washing up in the Bering Sea in October, as unusually warm water may have upended the bird's food chain.

Far out on the remote Pribilof Islands, a few dead puffins were found in early October, but within days volunteers were finding from 20 to 40 birds a day. By now, several hundred birds have washed ashore.

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Climate

More Chemicals Allowed in Florida Waterways, Toxic Algae Blooms Continue to Spread Across State

Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards that would increase the amount of carcinogenic toxins allowed in Florida's waterways.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal by state regulators that would set new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the Sunshine State and revise regulations on 43 toxins, most of which are carcinogenic. State regulators claim the new plan will protect more Floridians than current standards, the Miami Herald reported.

"We have not updated these parameters since 1992," Cari Roth, chairwoman of the commission, told the Miami Herald. "It is more good than harm. The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters."

Under the new proposal, acceptable levels of toxins in Florida waters will increase for more than 24 known carcinogens. The acceptable levels would decrease for 13 chemicals that are currently regulated.

The new regulations are based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method the Florida Department of Environmental Protection created, called "Monte Carlo." The method is being criticized by environmental groups, warning the new standards would allow polluters to dump high concentrations of dangerous chemicals into Florida's rivers and streams.

"Monte Carlo gambling with our children's safety is unacceptable," Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, said.

The known carcinogens can be released by oil and gas drilling companies, dry cleaning companies, pulp and paper producers, nuclear plants, wastewater treatment plants and agriculture. While most of these industries are supportive of the new rules, pulp and paper producers still think the measures are too restrictive.

Florida's proposal will now head to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its approval. Several members of Florida's congressional delegation have sent a letter to voice their concerns to the EPA. The letter calls for a public comment period to carefully evaluate the proposal.

If the EPA still decides to approve the proposal, Linda Young, executive director of the Clean Water Network, said the organization "absolutely ... will file suit."

Florida's easement of regulations on carcinogenic and toxic chemicals could be another threat to the state's waterways and the health of residents. The state is already challenged by "guacamole-thick" algae.

This year's bloom, which first appeared earlier this month, is the eighth such bloom since 2004, National Geographic reported. The outbreak has spread to Florida estuaries and has caused state officials to declare a state of emergency for four counties.

"This is absolutely the worst," Evan Miller, founder of Citizens for Clean Water, told National Geographic. "We've never seen algae so thick. You can see it from space. There are places ... that are on their third and fourth cycle of blooms now."

Blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, thrives in warm, calm water. Two conditions that are currently working against eradicating the blooms are climate change and political inertia—or in Florida's case, as water advocates believe, politics moving backward on regulations.

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